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If You Build it They Will Come: New England Factory Tours Meetup

Have you ever taken apart a pen and found yourself more interested with how that little spring inside was made than how it is used to make the pen click up and down?  Or, have you ever driven past a manufacturing facility (they seem to be ubiquitous in New England) and wondered, “what the heck do they make in there”? If you answered yes to either of these questions, New England Factory Tours (NEFT) might be for you. Located on MeetUp.com, the NEFT was created to give people a peek into some of the most advanced manufacturing facilitates in New England.

As NEFT’s newly appointed tour coordinator, I’m proud to help provide access to the manufacturing enthusiast, maker geeks, hardware startups, and curious minds alike at how things are made, often in their own backyard. New England is home to some of the best precision, plastics, electronics, and metal manufacturers in the world and these companies are eager to show off what they can do—this group helps them do that.

What started as a way to get interested people together has now grown into a 600+ person group. NEFT was started in 2014 by founding member Ben Einstein of Bolt, a venture capital firm specializing in hardware startups, and shortly after taken over by Chris Denney, CTO of Worthington Assembly Inc. and a manufacturing enthusiast.

Kristin Carlson, President of PPI, explains the process to factory tourists for making precision parts

“The tours tend to draw a solid mix of like-minded people who all share an interest in manufacturing,” says Denney. Denney got involved with NEFT because he has always enjoyed seeing how things are made, “I loved watching Mr. Rogers as a kid and my favorite part of the show is when he takes viewers into a factory. I was excited to be part of a group that allowed us to do this in person.” Denney went on to add, “it is very cool to be around like-minded people and see a shared level of interest in process.”     

Carlson tells tourists that one of the thermal imaging components made at PPI was used in the device that helped catch the Boston Marathon Bomber.

 

NEFT Tourist Dave Follette, a product developer and engineer who just moved to the area from Silicon Valley was eager to see Western Massachusetts manufacturing’s finest. Follette recently attended a factory tour of Peerless Precision Inc. (PPI) in Westfield, MA.  “I have always heard that Massachusetts is the country’s manufacturing hub. It was great to see it first-hand,” noted Follette.  Allen Cohen of Waban, MA, a NEFT Tourist and owner-operator of a kitchen cabinet making shop, said “I am not in the manufacturing industry but precision manufacturing facilities are of interest to me.”

My colleague, Matthew Sweitzer—also a Manufacturing Fellow for Greentown’s Manufacturing Initiative—and I plan on scheduling a steady stream of tours in 2017. NEFT had great momentum last year and we’re excited to pick up where it left off!    

The next NEFT will be held at Modern Mold & Tool, Inc. in Pittsfield, MA on 4/27/2017.  For more information or to sign up for this group, please visit the  following link: NEFT on Meetup.com or contact me at arodrigues@greentownlabs.org

The Greentown Springfield Manufacturing Initiative, located at the Scibelli Enterprise Center in Springfield MA, connects Pioneer Valley and Boston area startups with neighboring western Mass manufacturers. The Springfield Office offers surveys for both startups & manufacturers; office hours with manufacturing experts; educational workshops and lunch & learns; and direct introductions and connections between Pioneer Valley and Boston area startups and western Mass manufacturers.

For more information about the Greentown Springfield Manufacturing Initiative, please visit www.greentownlabs.com or call/email Adam Rodrigues, Greentown Manufacturing Fellow, at 413-262-7107, arodrigues@greentownlabs.org.

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